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Tuesday 18 December 2018

Fethard drive on

Fethard 2-9 Kiltale (Meath) 2-5

Man of the match Daire Barden racing away from Cathal McCabe
Man of the match Daire Barden racing away from Cathal McCabe

Alan Aherne

The Fethard bandwagon rolled merrily on in wind- and rain-lashed Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday when a gutsy display saw them remove one of the leading contenders from the AIB Leinster Club Intermediate hurling championship race at the quarter-final stage.

Don't be fooled by the fact that opponents Kiltale are from Meath, because their record in this competition marked them out as a team to be treated with the utmost respect.

While Oylegate-Glenbrien pipped them by two points in Navan in 2012 (3-12 to 2-13), they had held the indian sign over Wexford clubs since claiming the first of their five county Senior titles in a row in 2014.

They saw off Shamrocks that year by 3-15 to 1-10, then beat Naomh Eanna by 2-13 to 1-13 in 2015, and finally gained sweet revenge on Oylegate-Glenbrien in Trim two seasons ago on an emphatic 2-24 to 2-8 scoreline.

And they had come very close to winning the Leinster title in 2014 and 2015 respectively, losing in finals to Kilkenny duo Mullinavat (1-13 to 0-13) and Bennettsbridge (1-14 to 0-13).

This was a very impressive record, particularly when one considers the strides the latter club as well as the Gorey men have made in Senior ranks since.

Fethard had their homework done though and, after holding Kiltale to a four-point interval lead (2-4 to 1-3) on a horrible day for hurling, they restricted them to just one point after the break en route to a home semi-final clash against ex-Kilkenny attacker Eddie Brennan's Graigue-Ballycallan on November 17.

They went into battle minus the services of regular goalkeeper Seán Foley, with Kieran Furlong deputising on a difficult afternoon for delivering accurate puck-outs.

And after getting a strong taste for provincial action last season, albeit in the lower Junior grade, they knuckled down to a tough task and ended that long losing sequence for Wexford clubs against Kiltale with a show of commendable strength.

The strong, swirling wind coupled with non-stop rain favoured the team playing towards the town end, meaning that Fethard were in defensive mode in the first-half.

And although a foul on Graham O'Grady led to Mark Wallace establishing an early lead, the visitors struck next for the first of four fine goals shared by the teams despite the appalling underfoot and handling conditions.

Almost seven minutes had elapsed when Stephen Donoghue delivered the ball from the left, with corner-forward Peter Durnin giving Daniel Mullan the slip before planting his shot past Kieran Furlong.

Jack Regan added a brace of points from frees before Fethard replied with a tremendous goal, the pick of the bunch, in the 14th minute.

Rúairí Tubrid sprayed the ball crossfield towards the right flank for Bryan Power who initially flicked it away from Brian O'Reilly on the ground before embarking on a run and knocking it over the head of the next challenging defender.

And when the sliothar connected with the turf, Power unleashed a smashing first-time drive across startled netminder Shane McGann and into the far corner of the net with a picture perfect finish (1-2 to 1-1).

Two more converted Jack Regan frees were sandwiched by a Garrett Foley point from a Mark Wallace pass, but Kiltale thundered into a double scores lead with another well-taken goal in the 23rd minute.

Midfielder Anthony Forde latched on to the Fethard puck-out after that second placed ball and hared through the middle on a long run before striking low to the corner of Kieran Furlong's net (2-4 to 1-2).

Thankfully, Fethard didn't ship any more scores before the end of a half featuring seven wides, including four for the visitors.

Indeed, they pared that deficit back to four points when a Jimmy Sutton handpass was picked up at the second attempt by Ciarán Dwyer and fired between the Clonard end posts.

Fethard resumed with a pointed free from Wallace before Dwyer and Kiltale's Brian O'Reilly were both dismissed on straight red cards for an off-the-ball incident that nobody bar the town end umpires appeared to see.

If anything, the additional space created in the Mogue's attacking zone by that decision was a help, and they drew level with another cracking goal in the 40th minute.

This time a Garrett Foley delivery into the right corner saw Jimmy Sutton out-muscle Iarla Hughes before giving a short flick via his stick to John Tubritt who was running off his left shoulder.

The county footballer in full flight is a hard man to stop, even on such a wet day, and he gave Shane McGann no chance with a blistering finish (2-4 each).

Mark Wallace then earned and tapped over another free, and Fethard never looked back, with Daire Barden magnificent at centre-back on any occasion when Kiltale threatened.

After Wallace hit the first of just three second-half wides for the new leaders, his handpass set up John Tubritt to make it 2-6 to 2-4 with a high strike in the 45th minute.

Kiltale's sole wide after the break followed before two more Wallace frees, after fouls on Garrett Foley and substitute Mikie Dwyer respectively, gave his side a precious four-point and two-score cushion with five minutes of the 60 to go (2-8 to 2-4).

A Jack Regan lay-off led to midfielder Anthony Forde picking off the only Kiltale point of the half and renewing their hope.

Mikie Dwyer then drilled a lovely pass from the left corner into a central position for fellow replacement Eddie Power whose attempt at a first-time pull was only thwarted because of the surface water lying on the field around the 'D' at the town end.

The five and a half added minutes were frantic, with John Tubritt dropping one effort short and then hitting a wide before a last-gasp Kiltale attack saw James Kelly gather the ball in his hand slightly to the right of goal less than 20 metres out.

However, he was quickly discommoded by a swarm of defiant Fethard defenders around him, and the free awarded against him for overcarrying was as good as a score at that stage.

Just to be sure of success, midfielder Joe Sutton latched on to a stray clearance after a scramble at the other end to pick off the insurance point via the hurl of rival goalkeeper Shane McGann, crowning another memorable day as the seasiders continue their adventure.

Fethard: Kieran Furlong; Martin Power, Kevin Rowe, Daniel Mullan; Richard Waters, Daire Barden, Rúairí Tubrid; Joe Sutton (0-1), Garrett Foley (joint capt., 0-1); John Tubritt (1-1), Mark Wallace (0-5 frees), Graham O'Grady (joint capt.); Bryan Power (1-0), Ciarán Dwyer (0-1), Jimmy Sutton. Subs. - Mikie Dwyer for B. Power (45), Eddie Power for Jimmy Sutton (50), Jesse Foley for O'Grady (59).

Kiltale: Shane McGann; Iarla Hughes, Philip Garvey (capt.), Brian O'Reilly; Stephen Donoghue, Ronan Ryan, Pádraig Kelly; Anthony Forde (1-1), Cillian O'Sullivan; James Kelly, Cathal McCabe, Adam Murphy; Peter Durnin (1-0), Ross Ryan, Jack Regan (0-4 frees). Subs. - Chris Reilly for McCabe (44), Brendan Dixon for Durnin (50), Shane Lenehan for O'Sullivan (50), Eamon Ryan for Murphy, inj. (59).

Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).

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